Well, I suppose there’s some news to be talking about…

Posted by DiGiKerot in idolmaster at September 21, 2013 on 9:20 pm

…Because someone obviously decided that, for some bizarre reason, holding TGS the same weekend as a major iM@S event was a sensible idea (and, yes, I did deliberately phrase that in such a fashion to suggest that iM@S is more important than the rest of the Japanese gaming industry).

I guess the news about iM@S Channel, the new PS3 application (read “storefront”) that will liberate P-sans from the pain of dealing with the main PSN store, has been out there for a few days now. They did, at least, post a PV detailing what the heck the thing actually is to the official iM@S Channel site today, which is helpful.

So, iM@S Channel is, effectively, a way to sustain iM@S obsession within the user base until they have the next major game (read “the PS4 iM@S game”) ready to go. I mean, one of the things on display in the PV is the News section, which is essentially rewarding the player for checking in every single day by filling in pages of a stamp card, unlocking additional content as they go. It’s a way of helping ensure that those further onto the fringes of the fandom are fully aware of pesky little things like CD release dates, by rewarding them for keeping up on iM@S news, the pesky blighters.

To get into the content that has already been announced, well, Gravure for You is Gravure for You. Those of us who bought all the anime BDs from Japan probably already have the full set. Some of us (I admit, not myself) might have even actually put them into the console at some point!

ShinyTV is… well, it’s not a home port of Shiny Festa, unfortunately for those of us wanting those OAVs at higher quality. It’s a retooling of the concept, however – in that same deceptively simple gameplay system returns, and they’re certainly going to be reusing assets that they’ve already created in terms of some of the song, PV and note-tracking that they’ve already done for the portable game. The actual framework surrounding that is what has seen a refresh, however – the conceit of the island music festival has gone, replaced with a challenge mode based around the idols appearing on various TV shows (with a Haruka-themed cookery show that, sadly, doesn’t involve frogs appearing in the PV, complete with kinda-lazy looking static portraits, rather than the 3D stuff we’re used to on the HD console iM@S games).

Which isn’t to say you get that in the box, and not just for the obvious reason that it’s a digital only product. The actual game download appears to at least come with a taster – the new-to-Shiny We Have A Dream, the song from Live in Slot, the iM@S PachiSlot game – but most of the actual game content comes bundled into a series of 12 character-themed DLC Mini-Albums, sold at 1500yen a piece. For your money, I guess you’ll be unlocking six songs (though, for the first two at least, there’s one overlap) and presumably a themed challenge mode episode.

It doesn’t actually seem that insidious a cost until your realise that, at 1500yen a piece, you’re basically going to be shelling out the best part of £150 for the full experience – possibly more if they continue to release content after this initially announced batch. The idea of a steady stream of new Shiny content on a bi-weekly or monthly basis is kind of intoxicating a thought, however. In any case, at least Music is in that first batch of songs.

I guess the other thing announced for iM@S Channel is a “new idol production game”, one of the two new chunks of upcoming iM@S Content for 2014. I have to admit, this isn’t necessarily what I was expecting – honestly, I kind of thought the first thing out of the gate might be some kind of HD version of Dearly Stars. The original DS version of that game hit at what was a bit of a lull in iM@S fandom, at the same time as Love+ was at the height of it’s DS-monopolising powers. It remains underloved more by virtue of being underplayed than anything else – it never really sold as much as it probably should have, and it’s probably about time that they considered revisiting those characters and situations. My wildest dreams was maybe some kind of home port of Live in Slot, but that’s probably wishful thinking, and for the best that we aren’t getting it.

That being said, in hindsight, it’s actually a pretty obvious move looking at the current trajectory of Bamco – Tekken Revolution, Soul Calibur:Lost Swords and Air Combat Infinity are all recent titles of theirs which take their popular franchises, make (in the case of Tekken at least) slightly friendlier versions of them, and leverage them into a Free-To-Play, micro-transactioned services. iM@S already plays in this field somewhat – it’s hard to be even on the periphery of iM@S fandom and not notice Cinderella Girls or Million Live, but this is a good opportunity to introduce people to the mainline franchise whilst milking those whales amongst us. I’d be pretty surprised if the iM@S Channel production game isn’t a “freemium” game following what is being done with Bamco’s other big properties.

Which is why I’m tempering my expectations somewhat – I’m sure that the game will still actually be fun, but I’m also expecting that there’ll be a certain amount of BS to put up with in order to play it. Some idols will be locked behind real money, in game money or play time, and costumes and songs most likely the same. Progress will be gated as well – want to play for more than three game-weeks in one real-world day? There’ll probably be a charge for that.

All of which is probably going to be really annoying for the hardcore amongst us, but as a zero-cost way of introducing people to the play-cycle of the main series prior to the launch of the actual next game (likely the PS4 one), it’ll be pretty great. Honestly, the reveal that they’re making an idol production game for iM@S Channel has me pondering if this thing will actually see an English language release at some point – I’m doubting that the new Production game will be as high-intensity, in terms of written content, as the main series, which makes all this seem like a low-cost, low-risk way of trying to stoke interesting in the foreign markets. I mean, ShinyTV looks like it’ll be even lower intensity than Shiny Festa to translate.

Away from iM@S news, I guess that Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax, the fighting game crossing over characters from Dengeki Bunko light novels, apparently also with SEGA properties, is certainly going to be a thing. I dunno, I kinda ponder who is making it, and if they have any proper experience in making 2D fighting games. More than that, I really wonder what the pace of play is going to be – as far as these cross-over games go, I do have Aquapazza, but I thought it was kinda ass. I’ve never really gotten along with Examu games, though – I find them oddly slow, with rounds taking way too long to resolve themselves. I’m really looking for a Melty or Persona 4 Arena in terms of game pace.

Not that I’m particularly expecting Fighting Climax to be particularly great – announcing the game with Asuna as a character, whilst entirely understandable given the popularity of the whole Sword Art Online franchise, somewhat puts it on a bad footing with me. I’m in a weird state of mind as to where I want the character selection to go, though – part of me wants the popular, almost inevitable characters like Misaka Mikoto to make an appearance, another part of me wants them to delve a bit wackier by going with less fighter-appropriate characters like Kirino or Taiga, and another part wants to see them go esoteric with characters from older or weirder titles like Boogiepop or Kino.

The last part of me just wants to see them drop Asuna completely and to retool the game as the all-Kugimiya brawler KugiMelee.

I’m really not going to even suggest that, given an eventual home release, I’m not going to end up owning a copy of it. I’d just kind of like it to buck the trend of cross-over fighters and actually be good.

Finally, no, I have no idea what to make of a Super Sonico anime either. Sorry.

Finally Finally, Yay, more Puchimas incoming. I’m sure anyone who met me over the summer convention season probably wouldn’t have been able to miss my bag covered in Puchimas pin badges, signifying that I’d bought all of the BDs from NeoWing/CDJapan in time to get the store-exclusive bonus ^^;

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